Colorado Program Helps Immigrants by Connecting Parents to Schools

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The ID badge pinned to Maria Eloisa Duarte's jacket is an ordinary metal rectangle bearing her name above her title, "parent mentor."

But for Duarte, it is a badge of honor. Duarte is an immigrant mother with no legal status in the United States who rarely got out of her pajamas or left her house until six months ago. This pin says that she is now a valued contributor to her community.

Her eyes well with tears when she holds a hand over it and calls it her most prized possession.

She wears the badge all the time, she says, even when she isn't at Crystal River Elementary School helping kids with their subtraction and spelling and liberally doling out hugs. She wears it to her new volunteer work withvsexually abused children, and she wears it when she knocks on doors to let others know about local services that might improve their lives. She wears it to the college photography class she is taking.

Her name tag is a potent symbol of how one innovative community program, the Valley Settlement Project, is drawing immigrants and other disenfranchised residents of the Roaring Fork Valley into the fabric of the local culture.

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